Updated: Dec 13, 2020
With everything that’s happened in the past few months in our own country, such as
protests, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the recent presidential election, it’s easy to forget that things are happening in other countries as well. The past few weeks have seen much civil unrest in Guatemala, following a controversial move by the nation’s government.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, on top of the hurricanes ravaging the region, President
Alejandro Giammattei and the legislature approved a bill that would bring budget cuts to
education and medical care. The bill was negotiated and approved on the early dawn of November 18th. This was met with immediate outrage by citizens, with protestors proceeding to storm the streets.
These protests began on November 21st when about 10,000 citizens demonstrated outside of the National Palace in Guatemala City. As this was happening, another thousand were protesting outside of congress, eventually setting fire to the building. Videos of the fire reaching out of the building’s windows immediately spread all over social media. It’s reported that, though legislative offices were affected by the fire, the main hall of the congress wasn’t damaged.
These protests follow other controversial acts taken by Guatemala’s government. Recent
actions by the supreme court and attorney general were seen by protestors as undermining action against the government’s corruption.
Following this fire and continued protests afterward, different facets of the nation’s
government took action. Alan Rodríguez, Speaker for Guatemala’s Congress, said that they would be putting the bill on hold, not sending it to the president to be signed. President Giammattei immediately took action after the fire in Congress, condemning the protestors on Twitter by saying:
“Anyone who is proven to have participated in the criminal acts will be punished with the full force of the law”
The country’s vice president, Guillermo Castillo, was quick to denounce the actions of the government, offering to step down from his position and suggesting that the president follow suit.